A/N: As promised, here's a new story.
Disclaimer: I do not own the Bleach characters, manga, anime, movies, etc. They belong by copyright laws to Tite Kubo et al.
Saying I Will
The "Happy" Reunion
Rukia stood in front of her captain, schooling her features not to show her nervousness and her hope. From the moment she had left the Living World, she had purposely hid her feelings from the rest of the Gotei Thirteen and her adopted clan. She hadn't wanted anyone, especially the Kuchiki elders to know how much she missed Ichigo.
"Is Urahara sure of his information?"
"As sure as he can be at the present time. That is why the soutaicho has asked me to send you back there. We want him to recover his reiatsu before he dies. The Captain Commander has finally acknowledged the contributions Ichigo-kun made to the Gotei and how valuable an ally he is."
"My sources tell me that our Shinigami daiko is preparing to leave for an upper education facility known as a university. That is, unless I misunderstand the situation, much like our academy. Kuchiki-san, I want you with him at all times. Exposure to your reiatsu might jumpstart his faster than if you just kept an eye on him from a distance. As this institution also has requirements for entry, you're going to have to apply yourself in your studies and use the memory modifier."
"Yes, sir." Rukia turned to leave, pausing only when Ukitake cleared his throat. "Taicho?"
"Make it clear to him that I will not be pleased should he lose his badge again."
"Don't worry, sir," Rukia said, a sinister smile appearing. It was the first sign of emotion from her in a long time. "I'll drive the point home."
"Good, your brother is waiting to see you before you leave." The white haired captain watched her go, sighing. His two third seats sat poised, waiting for his orders but were for once silent. "She was never meant for this world so soon," he said to their unasked questions. "A soul that couldn't find a true home among other souls. I wonder if anyone else saw that she wasn't happy without him."
"There are two sides to Rukia Kuchiki, Kiyone. The side she shows the world, and her true self, which she shows to Ichigo Kurosaki." An unfeeling Shinigami she was not, although that was what she had been trying to show the world ever since she returned to her duties here. Ukitake just hoped that she'd find the happiness she lacked here with Ichigo.
Rukia knocked softly on her brother's office door, waiting until he gave her permission to enter before sliding the shoji back and stepping into the room. "Nii-sama," she said, bowing politely. She kept the mask on, not wanting her brother to see her excitement. He had never approved of Ichigo and Rukia rather thought that it was because they were both proud men who didn't back down when they got a notion into their heads and thought that they were right, regardless of what anyone else said or evidence to the contrary. Of course, if anyone were to suggest that they were alike, there would be a bloodbath that would surprise even Kenpachi.
"You are going to live with the ryoka boy again."
"Yamamoto-soutaicho's orders. He wants Ichigo to become a Shinigami daiko again before he dies."
"Ukitake-taicho informs me that Kurosaki is going to be living on his own during his advanced studies. You will not live in a small, dingy place the size of your room here. And you certainly will not be living in the barracks provided by the academy."
"I understand, Nii-sama. I will tell Ichigo to find a place of sufficient size."
"There is no need. You will deliver this into his hands and I have made financial arrangements with Urahara so that you will not be required to be dependent on the ryoka. Do you have any questions?"
"No, Nii-sama. Thank you." Rukia bowed again, and turned to leave.
"Rukia." Byakuya rarely said her name, and she stopped, looking back at him. "I realize you have not been happy here but do not forget that you are a Kuchiki and my sister."
He saw the ice melt briefly in her eyes and sighed to himself. His guess had been correct. The young girl he had adopted had always tried to hide her true thoughts and feelings from the world they lived in. It hadn't been until Ichigo's advent into their lives that he had begun to understand that she had been as remote as he because she hadn't wanted to be hurt and rejected. Byakuya had never done anything to make her feel that this was her home so he couldn't very well expect her to feel that way now, no matter what changed or how many years passed.
The fact that Kurosaki had taken her in and treated her as a person rather than a creature with a noble name had allowed Rukia to blossom in a way that neither her childhood nor her position as a Shinigami could have done. He hadn't been afraid to argue with her, and he hadn't been afraid to love her. Whether the boy knew he loved her was another story entirely. Ichigo Kurosaki was the quintessential older brother and the ultimate protector. Rukia had needed someone to respect her and allow her the freedom to be her own person while also needing someone who wasn't afraid to put himself in the way of danger for her too. As a Shinigami she knew her duty but she'd never had someone who had her back. As much as Byakuya hated to admit it, Kurosaki was that person.
"Thank you, Nii-sama. I will endeavor to make the clan and you proud." With one last bow, Rukia left to use the family Senkaimon to travel to the real world.
Ichigo packed the last of the boxes and sat down on his bed. Tomorrow he and his father would be travelling to the area around Tokyo University so that he could find an apartment that he could afford on his meager salary. He hadn't wanted to live in a dorm on the off chance something weird happened and a Hollow decided to come after him even though he didn't have any reiatsu anymore. An even odder occurrence would be a visit from a Shinigami and he didn't want to have to explain to a roommate why there was a stranger in their room who wanted to bunk down.
Glancing at his closet, he pushed himself to his feet and went to the other side of the room to open the door. The futon and blanket Rukia had used all that time ago was still there, waiting for her to return. Not that she would. He hadn't heard a word from her since the moment she disappeared from his sight. Sighing, he went back to sit on the bed, noticing for the first time that he had the window open. The cool breeze from the early spring evening brushed over his skin and gave him goosebumps.
"You should stop that pathetic sighing, Ichigo." The crisp voice of a woman he hadn't seen in years assaulted his ears with the insult.
"Rukia?" he questioned, wondering if he'd gone insane. Looking around him, he couldn't see where she was and finally resorted to looking out the window. Standing on the branch of the tree near his window he found her smirking back at him. She was wearing a gigai dressed much as the one that she'd had when they were in high school.
"Long time no see, idiot." He jumped back in time to avoid being hit by her fist as she sailed through the window.
"Hey, midget! Watch what you're doing." He tripped over the box nearest the bed and fell down. She towered over him, probably the only way she could when he wasn't standing. Predatory violet eyes narrowed on him as he stood. Once he'd gain his feet, she aimed for his stomach but got someplace significantly lower with her elbow.
Gasping for breath, Ichigo collapsed to his knees, wheezing. "Hmm, you've grown again. You're now really freakishly tall."
"And you…Are still a midget. Welcome the hell home." Downed by a short Shinigami, he thought and fell backwards.
"Thank you, Ichigo; it's good to be home. So, when do we leave for this university?"
Ichigo was in too much pain to answer.